Katie Meyer

Matt Rourke / AP

Pennsylvania is already on track to have a significant budget gap to fill next year.

A study from the Independent Fiscal Office shows lawmakers will likely need to come up with about a billion dollars to keep the books balanced.

They only just finished this year’s budget, four months behind schedule.

It was mostly filled with borrowing, expected revenue from a gambling expansion and a number of internal fund transfers.

Much of the money isn’t recurring, and that’s a big reason why the IFO is predicting the state will have to find more cash next year.

Matt Rourke / AP

The state legislature has received its yearly audit, which looks at reserves lawmakers keep on hand in case their pay gets cut off during a budget impasse.

This year’s review showed a smaller surplus than last year’s, with overall legislative reserves decreasing from $118 million and change last year, to around $95 million as of this June.

However, the surplus could be significantly bigger than it appears in the report.

Lawmakers are often pressured to cut down on their excess cash, particularly in the face of the commonwealth’s recent budgeting woes.

Jeff Roberson / AP

Pennsylvania is going to borrow against its Tobacco Settlement Fund to fill in last year’s deficit and finish this year’s budget

The Wolf administration confirmed Tuesday that it will tap into the stream of money states have received from tobacco companies since the 1990s.

The borrowing will give the commonwealth money to balance its books up front, and will then be paid back over several decades.

The Commonwealth Financing Authority approved the plan Tuesday. However, Budget Secretary Randy Albright noted that it’s not finalized yet.

Matt Rourke / AP

After months of deliberation, state House Speaker Mike Turzai has announced he is running for the Republican nomination for Governor.

The Pittsburgh-area lawmaker is now the fourth GOP challenger to Democratic Governor Tom Wolf, who’s seeking a second term.

The field also includes conservative Republican state Senator Scott Wagner, lawyer Laura Ellsworth, and former health care systems consultant Paul Mango.

Turzai has served in the House since 2001, and became speaker two years ago.

Katie Meyer / 90.5 WESA

Several activists were arrested Monday while blocking a hallway during a rally at the state Capitol.

Many had just finished a three-day walk from Lancaster to Harrisburg—the second one they’ve done this year.

The group’s goal is to call attention to stalled bills that would ban gifts to lawmakers and seek to make the redistricting process less partisan.

The walk to the Capitol was 36 miles, and temperatures fell below freezing at times.

But when the March on Harrisburg group reached the Capitol, their energy was high

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

State lawmakers are running into legal issues over a component of the budget plan they passed last month.

Some $200 million of the plan is slated to be appropriated from a group that insures healthcare providers against malpractice claims.

However, the group has sued to keep that money.

The state established the Joint Underwriting Association in the 1970s, so lawmakers say they have the authority to appropriate its funds as needed.

But the JUA contends its money are private, because it comes from investments and premiums from policyholders.

Katie Meyer / 90.5 WESA

State Senator Scott Wagner is taking an unorthodox step in his campaign for governor.

The conservative York County Republican has named a running mate—real estate developer and political outsider Jeff Bartos.

In some ways, the decision is only symbolic.

Pennsylvania’s primary system requires candidates for lieutenant governor to campaign separately from gubernatorial hopefuls. The winners from each party are automatically paired together.

Diego Torres Silvestre / flickr

A Moody’s credit rating agency report shows Pennsylvania’s recent gambling expansion may not be that great for casinos, and could run the risk of making the commonwealth less attractive to the industry. 

Katie Meyer / 90.5 WESA

Tuesday night saw some big wins for Democrats around the country--but Pennsylvania's elections were mostly lower-profile, and ended with more of a political mixed bag.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

The Republican-sponsored tax code overhaul in Congress faces an uncertain path, and will likely see some major changes as it makes its way toward legalization.

But nevertheless, small business owners and advocates in Pennsylvania are trying to figure out how its current iteration would affect them—and some have mixed feelings.

The more than 400-page bill of sweeping tax code changes has been touted as “pro-business” by its House GOP authors and the Trump administration.

And it would indeed slash the corporate tax rate by 15 percent.

Heather Ainsworth / AP

Pennsylvania is starting the lengthy process of making far-reaching expansions to its gambling industry.

Among the law’s major provisions are legalization of video gaming terminals—or VGTs—in truck stops, and licensing of 10 new miniature casinos.

Counties can opt not to allow VGTs, and municipalities can do the same for mini-casinos.

State Gaming Control Board Spokesman Doug Harbach said those moves have to happen by December 29 and 31, respectively, but they haven’t heard from anyone yet.

Matt Rourke / AP

With the state budget wrapped up, lawmakers can turn their attention to a few fast approaching deadlines--including the renewal of funding for unemployment compensation.  

Matt Rourke / AP

After a tumultuous budget process that saw state lawmakers pass a plan they couldn’t fully pay for, many are looking into changing how the system works entirely.

Carolyn Kaster / AP

Tuesday’s election may be in an off-year, but that doesn’t mean it won’t have statewide implications.

The highest-profile race is for a seat on the state Supreme Court, and seats are also open on the Superior and Commonwealth courts.

Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court leans heavily Democratic right now, with a 5 to 2 majority.

The Republican candidate, Sallie Mundy, currently holds one of those seats and is seeking a full 10-year term. She was appointed as an interim justice by Governor Tom Wolf last year.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

When Pennsylvanians go to the polls next Tuesday, they’ll have a rare opportunity to vote to change the state constitution.

Kevin McCorry / WHYY

One of the biggest parts of the budget plan that Governor Tom Wolf has now mostly signed into law is $1.5 billion worth of borrowing.

But Wolf said Monday it’s not yet set in stone where that money will come from.

The legislature’s plan called for borrowing from the Tobacco Settlement Fund—which gets yearly payments from a settlement states made with tobacco companies in the late 1990s.

But while he was waiting for lawmakers to pass it, Wolf came up with his own approach — deciding to borrow the money against future revenue from the state-run liquor industry.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Governor Tom Wolf has signed the majority of the revenue plan passed by the legislature last week —four months past the deadline.

But he hasn’t signed the public school code yet, and in a briefing Monday, appeared to leave open the possibility of vetoing it.

The rest of the revenue package fills a $2.2 billion hole in the $32 billion budget.

Matt Rourke / AP

The state Treasury has authorized a major $1.8 billion loan to keep Pennsylvania's general fund from running out of money.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Pennsylvania’s state House has sent a gambling expansion bill to Gov. Tom Wolf’s desk — effectively finishing the budget lawmakers have labored over this entire fiscal year, four months past the due date.

The long, complex measure prompted hours of debate over the course of two days.

It significantly broadens Pennsylvania’s 13-year-old gaming industry.

Gambling in airports and over the internet will now be legal. Truck stops across the commonwealth will be able to install video gaming terminals — or VGTs — and up to 10 new miniature casinos are authorized.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

After almost four months of false starts and negotiation breakdowns, the state legislature has passed most of a plan to fund Pennsylvania’s budget—almost entirely through borrowing and internal transfers.

Matt Rourke / AP

State representatives are trying to figure out how to stop voter registration glitches that have allowed over 500 non-citizens to vote in state and national elections since 2000.

Emma Lee / WHYY

Pennsylvania’s hate crimes law protects people on the basis of race, color, religion, or national origin. But it doesn’t include several other categories—like ancestry, disability, sexual orientation, gender, or gender identity.

Some lawmakers have been trying to change that—but not everyone is on-board.

The commonwealth’s hate crimes law didn’t always exclude protections for sexual orientation, disabilities, or gender identity. From 2002 to 2008, it protected an expanded number of groups.

Matt Rourke / AP

The legislature is crawling closer to finishing its four-months-late state budget—with the House and Senate both saying they’re aiming to finalize a plan based mostly on borrowing this week.

“It’s been a long three months, so hopefully there’s more optimism than there was for most of the time,” House Republican Leader Dave Reed said.

“But,” he added, “we’ll wait and see.”

So far, the legislature has sent the governor its fiscal code, which implements the overall budget, and which Wolf said he still has to review.

Eric Risberg / AP

A Senate committee has moved a bill to reauthorize Pennsylvania’s Children’s Health Insurance Program—or CHIP.

Heather Ainsworth / AP

This week the state Senate is expected to consider a budget proposal that’s already been approved by the House, and leaders say the borrowing-heavy plan might be the only avenue to finding consensus.

But disagreements remain on a key component of the revenue package: how to expand gambling.

Many House members have long wanted to legalize remote video gaming terminals—or VGTs— in bars and taverns. They argue illegal terminals already exist, and should be regulated.

Matt Rourke / AP

The state House has now sent the Senate most of the revenue components necessary to finish Pennsylvania’s budget—more than three months behind schedule.

Senate leaders say they’ll make a good-faith effort to pass them, despite their flaws.

But the budget’s completion might still hinge on whether the chambers can agree on a gambling expansion.

The main component of the House proposal is a $1.5 billion in borrowing against the state’s Tobacco Settlement fund. That money would be paid back with interest over 20 years.

Marie Cusick / StateImpact Pennslvania

State House lawmakers have moved a bill onto the floor calling for a severance tax on natural gas drilling.

It's a big step for Democrats and moderate Republicans, who have pushed the tax for years. But there's a good chance the measure will languish without a vote for the foreseeable future.

It would create a tax on the volume of gas taken from the ground, on top of an existing fee for new wells drilled.

Its sponsor, moderate Bucks County Representative Gene DiGirolamo, estimated annual revenue between $200 million and $250 million, depending on gas prices.

Gene J. Puskar / AP

Some state lawmakers are trying to get restitution for what they see as bad U.S. Federal Reserve policies during the recovery of the housing market.

The ask? Around $20 billion dollars.

The state Treasury would be required to lobby the federal government for those funds under a resolution that recently passed committee in the House.

The practice at the core of the resolution is quantitative easing, or QE.

Matt Rourke / AP

House lawmakers narrowly passed part of a proposal Tuesday night to finish Pennsylvania’s overdue state budget—their first significant action since talks melted down two weeks ago.

Matt Rourke / AP

The state House and Senate are back in session after taking time off following the collapse of budget negotiations earlier this month.

There’s no concrete strategy moving forward.

But some lawmakers say they hope opposition to Governor Tom Wolf’s unilateral budget-balancing plan will eventually spur the body into action.

Wolf has announced that he intends to bring the state’s books in line by borrowing against liquor control board revenues, leasing out the state Farm Show complex, and not passing funding for state related universities.

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